Storing School Instruments Correctly (to avoid costly repairs)

Storing School Instruments 
Do you know how to keep your school instruments in working order during long term storage? Here are some tips and a suggested maintenance schedule to help you avoid costly repairs.

When are instruments likely to be stored for lengthy times?

  1. In the summer – if they aren’t checked out to kids or at the shop.
  2. Instruments that are not in use for that particular school year. Many instruments get rotated throughout the years. (If you have an instrument break down, you need the stored one ready to pull out in working condition. It is also wise to send the broken instrument to the repair shop immediately! It will save you from panic when the second instrument goes down. (In the case of bass clarinets and oboes seems to be an ongoing saga!)
  3. Marching instruments in the winter/spring. The most common storage issues tend to be with seasonal instruments. “I just sent this in for service after marching season. Now, I’m passing them out in May/June and it needs to be serviced again!” If the director (with the help of officers/parents) could set or delegate a monthly schedule just to oil the pistons and check the slides on the brass, there would be so much less stress when the instrument is actually needed. Many repairs that appear at the repair shop are the result (admitted or not) of frustration and trying to “quick fix” an instrument because you need it NOW!

Also, take the flip folders and accumulated garbage out of the case before storage, as well as securing the mouthpieces and any leadpipes or bits. Mouthpieces wreak havoc on brass instruments when they are not secured in the cases or the director’s office! Music crammed in woodwind cases bends keys and creates stress on instruments.

Woodwind maintenance before storage
Woodwinds are pretty simple. Be sure all debris has been removed from the case and that the case is in good repair before storage. Most of the issues with woodwinds are a result of joints being left together, (mouthpieces left in barrels, etc.) which ruins the corks. Make sure the reeds are off of the mouthpiece.

Brass Maintenance before and during storage

  • Oiling valves – Monthly
  • Greasing slides – Every 6 months or following every cleaning. (Grease is much thicker and doesn’t evaporate.)
  • Bath – Before it goes into storage. Make sure it is well lubricated before it gets put away.
  • Chemical flush – Every year at the repair shop
  • Overhauls – suggested schedule in this article (See detailed article about overhauls here.If you have instruments in storage that need overhauls, January/February are an ideal time to get that taken care of. Music stores get busy with summer repair later in the year. Mark it off your to-do list this week! (If you need a recommendation for a high quality overhaul shop, see the bottom of this article.)

A note on baths/chemical flushes:
Most kids can do a bath in lukewarm water at home (NOT hot, it will ruin lacquer, and NOT cold!) A chemical flush, which is more commonly a sonic machine these days, introduces sound waves and a little stronger chemical than soap and water, and should be done by a repair tech. Many programs that let students use school owned instruments in our area require a flush from the shop before they turn the instrument back in. Others just budget it in their repair budget.

In review, for brass instruments:

  • Before storing, remove all debris, secure mouthpieces etc.
  • Give instrument a bath or send to repair store for chemical flush
  • Generously grease slides and oil valves
  • Oil valves once a month during storage
  • If instrument is stored more than 6 months, reapply grease

Final tip:
Consider hosting an instrument care day and have student leaders/parents come in after school and help with maintenance. (If your program has a good relationship with a local music store, invite a representative to come and teach/oversee this the first time! Good music stores are always looking for ways to increase or maintain relationships!)

Special thanks to N-Tune Music & Sound, a nationally recognized instrument repair facility with 3 locations in Texas, for providing this article. (Booth #249 at TMEA) N-Tune Music & Sound is a business partner for BandDirectorsTalkShop.com and supports music education and band directors in many ways. Their dedication to student musicians and music educators is unmatched, as are their instrument repair quality and customer service.

At N-Tune Music and Sound we have over 200 years of hands-on experience with a crew of young technicians learning from the master technicians every day. There are many shops that perform some degree of service that they call an overhaul. But N-Tune Music and Sound is the only shop that we know of that understands the proper application of lacquer and the use of an oven to cure the lacquer correctly on brass instruments. N-Tune Music and Sound utilizes dust proof rooms and specialized spray guns for application before the oven.

N-Tune Music and Sound stands behind every instrument we overhaul. Ultimately, we aren’t finished with an instrument until the school or individual having the instrument overhauled or serviced is satisfied. Talk with anyone who has had instruments overhauled at our facility about the amount of budget money saved on overhauls versus the cost of new instruments. (We are happy to provide references upon request.) Our reputation has been forged over years of doing overhauls the right way and standing behind each instrument. N-Tune Music and Sound has been a NAMM Top 100 Dealer for five consecutive years.

N-Tune Music and Sound has a published retail overhaul price list. Directors, administrators or dealers interested in overhaul service should contact N-Tune Music and Sound at repair@ntunemusic.com. We also have a booth each year at the Texas Music Educators Association convention in San Antonio, Texas. Come see us at booth #249!

Related Reading:
Teaching Students Proper Instrument Care
How to Keep Your School-Owned Instruments in Top Condition
Percussion Room Makeover!

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